If I was a good blogger, I would have started this feature a few months back. But I'm a half-assed blogger, so you'll just have to live with getting it now (and for the duration of the season). What is it? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an opposing team's blogger, they answer. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: Friend of the Pants John M from SBN's excellent Indiana blog, The Crimson Quarry.
1) When last we met, Indiana's offense basically did whatever the hell they wanted against Iowa's "defense." Is there any reason to expect a different outcome this Sunday? Iowa's defense is consistently vulnerable to skilled post players and sharp-shooting perimeter players and the Hoosiers seem to have an abundance of both. We're properly terrified of the possibility of Cody Zeller putting on another dunking clinic against Iowa, but who are a few other Indiana players who could erupt against Iowa and make us all sad pandas?
Well, the main reason it might be different is because your coaches presumably have watched some film. The nice thing about that first IU-Iowa game is that it was a one game respite from "why don't we get the ball to Cody more?" IU doesn't have the best point guard play, and it seems that most teams IU has played have decided to keep a man glued to Zeller. Most teams don't have someone who can actually guard Zeller when he has the ball, but such guys still can do a decent job of denying him the ball. Iowa seemed to be trapping the driving guards with Zeller's man, leaving him wide open. I sincerely hope Fran McCaffery thinks it was just a matter of execution and uses the same defensive philosophy on Sunday. But I'm not banking on it.
As you mentioned, IU has a handful of excellent shooters--Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Matt Roth--and a versatile sixth man, Will Sheehey, who had a good game against Iowa last year before IU crumbled in the final five minutes. Also, Victor Oladipo has taken on some of the ball-handling responsibilities in recent games (Verdell Jones III has been injured, although he played well against Northwestern) and has been very effective at getting the ball to the hoop. Derek Elston, a big man with a good outside shooting touch, can be dangerous as well.
2) On the other hand, road games have been a bit of a problem for you so far this season: Michigan State and Ohio State put up pretty lopsided wins against Indiana and somehow you also felt the bitter sting of defeat to Nebrasketball. What happens to the Hoosiers away from Assembly Hall and the crazed atmosphere created by the hoop-heads there?
I think the road woes are a bit exaggerated and are tied in to the poor record of the previous three years. IU is 4-5 in true road games this season and has a neutral court win over Notre Dame. IU won at NC State, a team that appears to be NCAA-bound, and had a comfortable win at Purdue. The Nebraska game is the only bad road loss, and it still bothers me not even because of the fact of the loss, but because IU controlled the game for 35 minutes and imploded in the final five (very similar to last years' IU-Iowa game in Bloomington, actually). The team looks quite a bit better than they did a month ago, but I think the road games against Iowa and Minnesota will be interesting measuring sticks for this team.3) On a scale of 1-10, how satisfying has this season been? How far do you expect Indiana to go in the NCAA Tournament? What would it take to top the buzzer-beating win over Kentucky in the "HOLY CRAP THAT WAS AWESOME" department?
I will give it a 9. I feel like an ingrate for not giving it a 10. Before the season, I would have taken 18 wins in a heartbeat, and now IU looks like a strong candidate to win 23 or 24 games. Still, if IU simply could have taken care of business against Minnesota and Nebraska, then the team would be in the Big Ten title hunt right now. Again, I really don't want to complain, but those two game are what prevent me from giving it a 10. As for the Kentucky game, considering the opponent, the #1 ranking of the opponent, the dramatic nature of the win, and what IU has been through in the previous three seasons, I think there is a strong argument that Christian Watford's game-winning jumper was the greatest regular season moment in the history of Indiana basketball. To surpass that, I think IU would have to get at least to the Sweet 16, maybe the Elite Eight.
Assuming that IU doesn't implode, it appears likely that IU's seed (somewhere between 4-6 is my best prediction) will mean that IU will be comfortably favored in its first game of the Tournament and then will have a tossup in the second round. Based on that, I think reaching the second round is the most likely outcome, and I would be thrilled with a trip to the second weekend (something that IU has done only once since 1994, believe it or not).
4) Can you tell Matt Roth to add a middle initial to his name? Or start going by "Matthew Roth"? As Iowa fans, we experience some pretty severe cognitive dissonance when the announcers talk about your Matt Roth, while the only thing we can picture looks a little bit like this. Also, having to root against Matt Roth both makes us sad and concerned that our Matt Roth is going to hunt us down and twist us into a pretzel.
That is a reasonable request. If anything, you don't go far enough. Hearing "Matthew Roth" or "Matt J. Roth" still would invoke the same confusion and concerns in Iowa fans. To make a clean break, I propose that for this weekend's game and all future IU-Iowa games in which he plays, Matt Roth should be known as "James Hardy."
(Ed. Note: Ouch, that one burns. But well-played, sir. -- Ross)
5) Will Tom Crean ever get a decent haircut? His current 'do looks like something the president of the Math Club would sport.
Yeah, I'm not sure I can really defend that. I think, without any proof, that there are certain follicular enhancements involved that limit the range of possible hairstyles, if you catch my meaning.
6) Finally, prediction time -- who ya got?
I think the Hawkeyes will hold their own but that IU will continue its recent ways and will hold off the Hawkeyes 80-74.
Thanks for being a good sport, John. Be sure to check out John and the rest of the TCQ gang over at The Crimson Quarry. You can also follow John on the Twitters here. The Iowa-Indiana game is in Iowa City, IA on Sunday, February 19th at 5pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.